I just found this article I wrote years ago and since I've neglected my blog I thought I'd publish it here: There is no shortage of books and advice on relationships. You can read, listen, collect information and still not find satisfaction with your husband, wife, parents, children and friends. We are so filled with input collected throughout our lives, so filled with desires, guilt, fear, repulsions, interpretations, it is difficult for us to experience any moment without a dozen different voices in our minds whispering (or shouting) different versions of how we should respond to any situation. Many times, we react automatically, from habits not chosen consciously, picked up from who knows where. For years I sought guidance and wisdom trying to find that one person or book which could tell me how to be, how to live with others, until I found that that wisdom resides within myself.
The more I worked to be present and available in my life, the more I saw the answer of what to do and how to be unfolded in each moment. No longer was it just an abstract, intellectual pursuit, seeking approval in something called a “relationship”, but rather living moment by moment, looking deeply at each situation and responding more from my own innate commonsense wisdom. Much insight into my relationships has come from registering the effect of actions and interactions. More than any advice I could receive, observing choices and consequences helps me see what works and what not. In the times I can observe without tearing myself apart with judgment, I can see most clearly.
One year, as a Fathers’ Day gift, I wrote a letter to my father thanking him for the years of hard work and sacrifice in raising me. I thanked him for all the love and support I had received from him every day of my life, even after I moved out of his home and began to raise my own family. As I wrote the letter, there were moments when I would remember my arguments and grievances with him. There were sentences in which I wanted to write ”…but…” or “…,except when…’ Instead, I chose to stay focused with what I was thankful for. Later my mother related how moved he was by the letter. Even more importantly, though, is that I experienced my own heart open as I focused on my gratitude.
A few days ago, winding through Hecker Pass to Watsonville, I found myself, as I habitually do, complaining about the slow driver in front of me. My body became tense, my mind irritated. As I looked more deeply in the moment I saw that a) I was in no actual hurry (beyond my own self imposed hurry and worry) and b) as I put myself in the other person’s shoes, he was driving exactly as fast as he was comfortable. Relating to this other person’s perspective allowed me to relax and enjoy the drive down instead of spinning around in mental negativity.
With our close loved ones the effect is magnified. Not only do we interpret all that happens through our emotional and mental baggage, but then we also attach these interpretations to our sense of self worth. I directly see this in my own parenting. My perception of reality is often colored by fear, worry and my wish to be a “good mother.” I have gained the insight that my daughter’s happiness is not something to achieve or a boat she might miss, but rather a constantly unfolding process.
Sometimes there is a perception that being present or living moment by moment will make you flaky and nothing will get done. In my experience, as I live more deeply in each moment, I have become more responsible and responsive to the needs of family, friends, acquaintances and clients. Rather than imposing my concepts and ideas on others, I have become more receptive to listen and have insight into their needs. Instead of just being tolerant of the quirks of others, and myself, I am able to fully appreciate the full expression of each individual’s manifestation. As I become more accepting of myself, then sincerity, humility and forgiveness come with more ease. Less and less I feel there is some dark secret to defend or protect. Eventually, each relationship in this life comes to an end—whether by change of circumstance, divorce or death. By experiencing our lives more directly (with less interpretation) and being present (instead of dwelling in the past and future) we can have glimpses of understanding of the ever-changing nature of reality and find some bit of peace in its impermanence.